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Jailed Presidential Daughter Urges Civil Disobedience In Iran

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Faezeh Hashemi, the jailed daughter of a former president has written from prison that Iranians have long moved past the reformists and reject the Islamic Republic.

In a letter from prison addressed to a top reformist politician, Hossein Marashi, she criticized him for urging the people to vote in the upcoming March parliamentary elections. “Our weapon is our refusal, and testing the proven is a mistake,” Hashemi said referring to a widespread belief in Iran that it matters little which regime faction wins elections. Marashi happens to be Hashemi’s maternal uncle.

In July, Marashi had expressed deep pessimism about regime politicians but nevertheless urged the people to vote. “I have no hope in Iranian politicians. The elites in the society should come forward with determination and make their point, and whatever they need to do. I have hope that the people will change the scene.”

He was reacting to an earlier letter from Hashemi urging voters to boycott the elections on the same grounds that all previous elections, whether won by conservatives or reformists did not alter the regime’s core domestic and foreign policies.

Hashemi, daughter of late President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was arrested in September 2022, days after nationwide anti-regime protests broke out, as the government tried to control the situation by detaining well-known critics and many journalists. She was sentenced to a five-year prison term in January.

Rafsanjani and Khamenei in 1980s

Faezeh’s father was the second most powerful man in the Islamic regime in the 1990s and early 2000s, when he served as president (1989-1997) and held influence and key positions, until Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gradually pushed him aside. Rafsanjani was the key cleric who helped Khamenei succeed the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini when he died in 1989, although he did not have the required clerical rank and credentials for the post.

Khamenei’s men continued to persecute members of the Hashemi clan, who had become affluent and had legal vulnerabilities that could be exploited by Khamenei’s courts and intelligence services. Faezeh Hashemi who served as a member of parliament, became increasingly estranged from the regime and began defending women’s rights and hurling criticism at the regime that indirectly targeted Khamenei. She was tip-toeing on dangerous ground, and the regime could not take a risk once angry protesters poured into the streets after Mahsa Amini died in hijab police custody last September, and she was jailed.

Hashemi lashed out at the regime in her letter: “Issues like absolute power [of Supreme Leader], the complete dominance of the IRGC in all areas, aggressive foreign policy, the shameful economic situation, lawlessness, deceit and hypocrisy, manipulation, disregard for national interests and public demands, lack of a national perspective, security-driven control over all matters, lack of rationality and strategy in governing the country, extensive and systemic corruption and destruction, severe suppression of any criticism and unjust judicial verdicts, general disillusionment and public hatred of the situation…”

In another part of her letter, Hashemi considered the people’s solution to be “engaging in civil disobedience,” “ignoring the demands [of officials],” and “increasing pressure and pushing them into a corner.”

Hashemi also called her father’s death in January 2017 a “martyrdom”, referring to suspicions that he was killed by regime agents. Rafsanjani died at 82 while enjoying himself in a swimming pool where there were no witnesses. The family called his death “suspicious”but did not take any legal action, which would hardly achieve any results given the total submission of courts and police to the Revolutionary Guard and intelligence agencies ultimately controlled by Khamenei.